The restaurant Isebähnli is a real gem in a city that charges top dollar for what is essentially a plate of hash browns and roast meat. Tradition may define many of the restaurants in Zurich, but at Isebähnli, every day the menu starts fresh, depending on what’s available at the market and which cultures might be the sources of inspiration. The cozy, old school bistro setting might suggest you’re getting more of the same, but what comes out of the kitchen is quite unexpected and very rewarding. It’s made an impression on a lot of people, including Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, who recommended Isebähnli in a WSJ guide to Zurich.
It also helps that the staff is quite charming. I love the fact that it’s operated by a Turkish family of three, with one brother acting as the chef, the sister taking care of front of house, and the older son running the wine program. The older brother in particular is very good at working the room and making you feel very welcome there. Something about seeing the three of them working together makes you especially happy that the restaurant is doing so well.
Dinner is served in a 5-course tasting format, and of course, there is a wine pairing option. Our first course was a lovely tomato salad with burrata and lemon that tasted so summery and fresh, like it had been plucked right from the garden that day. It was followed by an organic salmon sashimi with pumpkin and pumpkin puree, a unique and decidedly Swiss take on an Asian dish. In each dish the ingredients were simple, straightforward and just a few, and you could really taste each one in a vibrant way.
The first of the meat dishes arrived, a duck breast with mango and beetroot puree that tasted like a riff on coconut curry. The pork dish that came next was the definitive zenith of the meal, in which two different parts of the pig were showcased with equal amounts of flair and with just the right amount of juicy fat on each piece. One of the cuts tasted like flavorful burnt ends in a jus sauce, and the other was a leaner loin, different but equally enjoyable.
For dessert, we had the option of choosing between a basil ice cream with berries and champagne and a passionfruit creme brulee. Our server asked which one was our favorite, and while the basil ice cream was the more interesting of the two, the passion fruit was more to our liking. Nicely full and with a light buzz, we walked back through the streets of Zurich, high on our meal and the general love that we were feeling for a city that has been written off as dull by many, but which managed to surprise us with its creative and playful side.
Froschaugasse 26, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
+41 43 243 77 87